Environment

Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.

Gwen Harlow / Flickr

"Paper or plastic?"

Seattle wants to take that choice away in order to save the environment and money. The city council is considering a ban on single-use plastic bags, because they are harmful to marine wildlife as well as to recycling machinery.

cerclek / Flickr

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A federal court judge has upheld the endangered species listing of Alaska's Cook Inlet beluga whales.

The state of Alaska and others had sued to overturn the listing by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Residents who live on Highway 36 west of Eugene are waiting for the results of a Pesticide Exposure Investigation by the state of Oregon. They believe herbicide spraying by the timber industry is causing health issues in their communities.

For years, residents near Blachly and Triangle Lake have complained of pesticide drift from clear-cut sprays. But it wasn’t until last spring that they caught the attention of the state. In independent biological testing, more than 30 people from the area tested positive for the common timber industry herbicides Atrazine and 2,4,D.

Sugar beet seed is a rare bright spot for struggling grass-seed farmers. Farmer John Reerslev of Junction City says the GMO product provides a safe way to control weeds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture held a hearing to consider the possible deregulation of biotech sugar beets, developed by agribusiness giant Monsanto.

"Hybrid sugar beet seed has always been the highest per acre net return on our farm. I had 120 acres two years ago on 6 percent of our land, but it was valued at 25 percent of our income. It’s a very important rotational crop," Reerslev said.

Catherine Anstett

Salmon spawning is at its peak this time of year and it’s possible to go to local creeks and culverts to watch the salmon, up close and personal. 

Now through early December is prime time to get a good look at chum salmon as they return for spawning around the Puget Sound. And, Piper’s Creek in Carkeek Park is one of the best places in town to see these big fish swimming in a natural environment. They can be so close you might catch a little splash. 

OLYMPIA, Wash. - You've probably seen plum parking spots set aside for electric cars, maybe even shaken your fist at an empty space. More than a thousand Northwest drivers have hit the road this year with the first mass market electric cars.

Many of them are letting researchers electronically track their charging and driving behavior. That data shows more than 80% of electric "fill ups" are happening not at those public charging points, but at home.

If you’re confused about what to do with the plastic bags you get at grocery stores, you’re not alone. 

Many people know that they’re bad for the environment and that they can be recycled, but how to recycle them is another question.

King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks

When you go to the grocery store, it’s easy to forget to bring a reusable bag with you.

But the consequences of just taking the plastic bags that are doled out at most grocery chains is devastating to the health of local waters and wildlife. That’s the message from Environment Washington – a group that has issued a renewed call for a ban on plastic at checkout stands in Seattle.

You might call it harnessing the power of the moon.

Ocean energy is electricity that is generated when the power of tides, waves and currents moves turbines and windmills. It’s an idea that’s caught on already in Oregon. And there are plans on the horizon to bring it to Washington. 

Idaho National Lab

The Idaho National Lab is monitoring 16 of its workers who were exposed to Plutonium 239. That isotope is used in nuclear weapons.

Derin / Flickr

This month, some Alaska Airlines flights will be flying on used cooking oil as they travel from Seattle to Portland and Washington D.C.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / Flickr

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to independently confirm the presence of a deadly virus found in two Pacific salmon in British Columbia.

Washington Dept. of Ecology

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Northwest is known for its big hydroelectric dams. But across the region there are also hundreds of smaller non-hydro dams. Some of them hold back water, but others retain dairy waste or sewage.

In Washington, the operators of these structures could soon pay more in annual fees to cover the cost of inspections.

Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game

Biologists tracking a gray wolf from Northeastern Oregon say it has traveled more than 300 miles. The wolf crossed the Cascades and showed up in southwest Oregon not far from Crater Lake.

Courtesy of Ford

Seattle's Century Link Field is again the location for the unveiling of a new all-electric car. 

The Nissan Leaf debuted here nearly a year ago. Tomorrow morning there will be a demonstration of the plug-in technology at the charging stations near the stadium – to mark the opening of order banks for owning the new Ford electric vehicle. 

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

PRIEST RIVER, Idaho – A fight over less than an acre of land in a remote part of the Northwest could alter the way the government enforces environmental regulations across the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court this winter will hear a case brought against the EPA by Mike and Chantell Sackett of north Idaho.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The state of Alaska is suing to invalidate the results of a voter initiative that could stop a massive gold and copper mine near one of the world's premier salmon fisheries.

Residents of Lake and Peninsula Borough voted earlier this month to ban large-scale resource extraction that would "destroy or degrade" salmon habitat. The measure was aimed at the Pebble Mine development located near the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

Crews have blasted a hole in a nearly century-old hydropower dam in Washington's south Cascades today, marking another step in efforts to restore habitat for threatened and endangered fish in the Pacific Northwest.

Walter Siegmund / Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would require the Obama Administration to sell off public lands, including parcels in the Northwest.

The issue got a hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C., just as some northwest lawmakers are pushing for wilderness protections on other lands.

D. Kvamme / PacifiCorp

Update: Watch the explosion and dam breach.

WHITE SALMON, Wash. – Demolition experts are rigging 700 pounds of dynamite today at Condit Dam in southwest Washington. Crews are scheduled to breach the aging hydropower dam on the White Salmon River around noon Wednesday.

Bejan / Flickr

A new study from Oregon State University says that producing biofuels from forests in the Northwest could increase the region’s carbon emissions.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / flickr

Alarm over a potentially deadly salmon virus has reached the halls of Congress. The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment that calls for a rapid federal response. Last week, scientists in British Columbia announced they've found the fish-killing virus in wild Pacific Salmon for the first time.

It's the second virus suspected in salmon deaths to be discovered this year.

Maria M / Flickr

A national initiative to improve access to the outdoors will focus on expanding two trails in Washington state.

President Barack Obama's Great Outdoors Initiative includes efforts to extend the Pacific Northwest Trail on the Olympic Peninsula and create a water trail along the entire length of the Columbia River through Washington.

Flickr

Federal fisheries scientists plan to survey Pacific Northwest and Alaskan waters to determine if a harmful European fish virus has spread here.

And now, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and two senators from Alaska are calling for an investigation into the spread of the virus striking Canadian salmon.

Thirteen of Clubs photo / Flickr

It’s the single largest source of pollution entering Puget Sound – rain that hits pavement and carries grease, metals and other toxins into the water.

The Department of Ecology has just issued new rules that aim to keep stormwater runoff in check. However, several environmental groups complain the new rules are full of loopholes.

National Park Conservation Assn.

DILINGHAM, Alaska – Environmentalist groups are celebrating a victory in a remote corner of southeast Alaska. Residents near Bristol Bay have voted to try to block one of North America's largest open pit mining operations.

It's proposed for a spot next to one of the world's most productive salmon fisheries.

Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game

BOISE - Environmental groups filed a motion Monday to halt wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.

Idaho based Friends of the Clearwater and two other groups filed an injunction in the 9th circuit court to immediately stop wolf hunts. The groups fear many wolves will be killed while they appeal a decision that upholds hunting.

National Park Conservation Assn.

It’s thousands of miles away, but supporters of a campaign to stop a controversial mine proposal in Alaska say it would harm more than just the pristine ecosystem where it’s located.

They’re launching a “Save Bristol Bay Road Show” in Seattle tonight, claiming the city’s fishing industry could lose thousands of jobs if the mine is built. 

The Skagit River Valley is home to farmland that brings us everything from tulips to potatoes and berries. But the river that makes such rich soil possible is also home to all five native species of Pacific salmon – including threatened Chinook.

Efforts to restore fish habitat have sparked bitter battles in the past. Now, hopes are high as work wraps up on a project in the Skagit River Delta that has support from advocates for fish and farmers alike.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are trying to flush and clean contaminated groundwater that runs deep under southeast Washington.

The massive plumes of radioactive and toxic chemicals are leftovers from plutonium production during World War II and the Cold War. Decontaminating all that groundwater is a monumental task. And as correspondent Anna King found out, it will only get harder over time.

Some of the groundwater pumped up from Hanford near the Columbia River is so contaminated it looks like flat Mountain Dew.

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